Core fitness - Taking car of your back

Your back is at the very core of your body, and back injuries are a miserable, painful experience. Scuba-diving presents a number of high-risk activities for your back: lifting and carrying heavy equipment such as cylinders and weightbelts, supporting your position when submerged and hauling yourself out of the water.

BEFORE DIVING
The easiest way to carry kit is to wear it. Maintain a balance. Dont sling your BC over one shoulder; use both shoulder-straps. And dont carry loads of weight on one arm.
Using the strength in your arms to lift and carry is a bad idea. As the muscles in your arm tire, those in your back try to compensate. Use the strength in your legs wherever possible, bending them and keeping your back relaxed and upright when lifting.
Dont bend over at the waist and pull, or you and your spine are likely to fall out bigtime.
Make a number of trips rather than trying to carry everything in one go. If there is a trolley, use it - you wont look so hard when youre doubled over in pain, will you
Sit on something stable to kit up and de-kit. If you have to stand, ask someone to support the weight of your cylinder for you while you sort out your BC. Buddies can be the best back-savers.

UNDER WATER
Avoid slinging too much weight around your waist. Do a proper buoyancy check at the start of the season. If you find you need lots of weight, try using a BC with integrated weights, or a harness that supports the weight from your shoulders.
Adjust your BC straps to hold your cylinder securely against your back and stop it slopping around. Some BCs incorporate back-friendly features. For example, Seaquests Diva LX has a flexible backplate which moulds itself to fit the curve of your spine, distributing the weight safely and evenly.
Try to keep your weight distribution balanced. Wearing a pony cylinder bolted to one side of your cylinder can cause problems.
Uneven weighting on your belt, or even a loose weightbelt that shuffles around your waist under water, can throw you off-balance and strain your back.
If youre diving with a twinset, youll need a sturdy backplate onto which you can securely bolt the cylinders, and a snug-fitting harness.
A wing-style BC will help lift the weight of the cylinders off your back and assist with your posture in-water.
Try to avoid dive leaders neck. If you want to look round, move your whole body in the water rather than just turning your head. This also helps you avoid water coming down the neckseal of your drysuit.

AFTER DIVING
When returning to a hardboat, avoid pulling yourself up by your arms. Instead, use the strength in your legs to climb the ladder. De-kit in the water first if you can. If your feet slip off the ladder, let go and fall - trying to hang on is scarier, and you could wrench your back.
If youre in a RIB and recovering somebodys kit, take care. Get a firm grip on the pillar valve or BC handle, brace your knees on the tubes and lean backwards with your back in an upright position, using your body weight to bring the kit out of the water.
Avoid bending forwards at the waist and pulling. And if theres someone else on board, get them to give you a hand.
If youre trying to get back into a RIB, fin up hard while pushing down onto the tubes with your arms. Avoid trying to use your upper body strength to pull yourself out of the water - if necessary get your buddy to grab your thigh and haul you onboard.
Shore-diving is more likely to injure your ankles than your back, but if you are being battered by waves while trying to exit onto a beach, the best technique is to forget trying to take your fins off. Let yourself be washed as far up the beach as possible, keep your reg in your mouth and - crawl.
It looks completely naff, and is murder on the knees of your drysuit. But itll teach you to fork out for a hardboat next time!
Your back is less prone to injury if you keep the muscles supporting it in good shape.
Poor technique with weights or exercise can also injure you, so its very important to be guided by a professional.


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